Suspended sentence and probation order as a sentencing option is outlined in section 731(1)(a) of the Criminal Code. The Code states that where an offender has been convicted of a criminal offence for which there is no minimum punishment, the court may decide to suspend the passing of a sentence (jail sentence) and instead order probation.
In determining whether or not to order a suspended sentence and probation, the court will consider all relevant factors including the age and character of the offender and the nature and circumstances of the case. A suspended sentence must always be accompanied by a probation order.
What is a Suspended Sentence?
A suspended sentence is a sentencing option that results in the accused receiving a criminal record but does not involve a period of incarceration. The accused is placed on a period of probation following sentencing and must abide by certain conditions until the probationary period has concluded.
Who can get a Suspended Sentence and Probation Order?
Suspended sentences are generally imposed, and are most appropriate, in situations where denunciation and deterrence are not the most important sentencing principles. A suspended sentence with probation is most appropriate where the primary sentencing principles are rehabilitation and promoting a sense of responsibility. Where deterrence and denunciation are the most important principles, incarceration is often the best sentencing option.
A suspended sentence is only available to offenders who are not facing a mandatory minimum penalty at sentencing.
Generally, suspended sentences and probation and reserved for offenders who:
- Have a minor or no criminal record;
- Have not committed more minor offences;
- Have not previously breached conditions of a probation order; or
- Have committed petty, unsophisticated crimes.
Who is Ineligible for a Suspended Sentence and Probation Order?
Offenders who are facing a mandatory minimum penalty upon sentencing will not be eligible for a suspended sentence and probation order.
Will I be on Probation?
Yes. An individual who is given a suspended sentence will be placed on probation for between one and three years from the sentencing date. During this period, the offender will be required to regularly report to their probation officer. How often an accused reports to their probation officer is up to the discretion of the officer.
A probation order will also have conditions which the offender must abide by for the duration of the order. The conditions of a probation order will vary from one offender to the next and will be tailored to the specific offender and their specific offence.
Every probation order must have the following three conditions:
- Keep the peace and be of good behaviour
- Appear before the court when required to do so by the court
- Notify the court or probation officer in advance of any change of name or address and promptly notify the court or probation officer of any changes in employment or occupation.
In addition to these mandatory conditions, the court may also order that the offender abide by other conditions including any of the following:
- Remain in the jurisdiction of the court unless granted written permission to leave by the court or probation officer.
- Abstain from owning or possessing any weapons.
- Abstain from consuming drugs and/or alcohol except in accordance with a medical prescription.
- Report to a probation officer as required by the probation officer.
- Complete up to 240 community service hours in a maximum of eighteen months.
The court may also order other reasonable conditions including ordering the offender attend a treatment program where the offender is agreeable.
Will a Suspended Sentence Appear on a Background Check?
Yes. An offender who is given a suspended sentence after being convicted of a criminal offence will have a permanent criminal record. The conviction will appear on all criminal record checks including those done for employment or immigration purposes.
Individuals with a conviction on their record may have difficulty attaining employment, volunteering with vulnerable populations like children and the elderly and traveling.
Can I get my Conviction Pardoned?
In some cases, yes. Since a suspended sentence is a criminal conviction that results in a permanent criminal record, the only way to have it removed is by applying for a pardon or record suspension. Whether or not the pardon or record suspension will be granted will depend in the charges. In many cases, an appeal is needed.